Broadband Interest Group Analysis of “Google Gigabit Broadband Proposal”

Big Gig Austin logoThe Google Fiber for Communities initiative is conducting a search for a location to build a super-high-speed, open,  optical broadband network. Austin is competing vigorously for the selection. Community support is being organized by the Big Gig Austin Initiative.

The Austin Broadband Interest Group has filed a letter of support, including a policy analysis of possible impacts from a gigabit broadband trial in Austin.

The group notes:

Hip, educated, and tech-savvy Austin is the ideal place to prove this. Moreover, there are some unique facts about Austin that are pertinent to this effort. A successful trial in Austin will demonstrate:

  • Limitations of a communications duopoly are hampering efforts to foster effective competition in broadband markets.
  • Competitive service providers will enthusiastically embrace an open network.
  • Artificial scarcity, implemented with broadband caps and metering, is harmful and unnecessary.
  • Regulation that protects incumbents and hampers municipal networks simply suppresses demand that fosters broadband growth.

Read the policy analysis here.

Massa Files “Broadband Internet Fairness Act”

Today, Rep. Eric Massa filed H.R. 2902, the “Broadband Internet Fairness Act of 2009″. If enacted, this would require Internet service providers with over 2 million subscribers to submit volume based pricing plans for review to the FTC.

In a press conference today, Massa directly linked this bill to the attempt by Time Warner Cable to deploy consumption-based pricing in Austin and three other cities. Massa notes:

The drafting of the bill was prompted by thousands of constituents and industry experts who voiced their concerns in regard to the outrageous increase in fees proposed by broadband providers. [...] The Broadband Internet Fairness Act will prevent the monopolistic rate increases of broadband companies by promoting the interests of broadband customers.

By selecting the FTC, Massa aims to bring about consumer protections by treating this as a market competitiveness issue. In a press conference today, Massa noted that the FTC has experience handling such issues, and, in fact, the language of H.R. 2902 is based on existing models the FTC uses to assure competition in other markets.

The text of the Massa press release, including a link to the bill text, is here: Congressman Eric Massa introduces Broadband Internet Fairness Act

12:35pm Update: Here is some other coverage on the bill:

Free Press: Spectacular Victory

Earlier last week, we pointed to the action alert posted by “Free Press.” In a mailing to supporters last Friday, “Free Press” called the decision by Time-Warner Cable to suspend metered pricing trials “a spectacular victory”. See their mailing below, after the jump.

Continue reading Free Press: Spectacular Victory

Dampier: Not Over

"Stop the Cap" graphic

Phillip Dampier is the force behind He was also the guy standing next to Sen. Schumer when it was announced the metered trials were 86ed.

Phillip was nice enough to stop by this site earlier today and share his thoughts in the comments:

This is NOT over. I thought it might have been over when I was standing right next to Sen. Schumer when he was doing his press conference. I was assured that this was as good as dead. When I got home, there was the TW press release.

Read the full comment here.

Gallaga: Relaunch Unlikely

TWC has suspended the metered Internet trials. I just finished posting my take on the issue. Omar Gallaga has been covering this issue closely for the Austin American-Statesman, and he just posted his take.

He’s seeing the glass half full (or better):

The company didn’t close the door on the possibility of revisiting this kind of billing, but it’s hard to imagine a situation where it wouldn’t again meet such a backlash, especially now that customers and those who fought on Twitter and the Web against it will know that their efforts seemed to have turned the tide.

I hope he’s right, and I do agree that any future attempts will be retooled to avoid such a backlash. But where we disagree is that I believe they’ll be back. The cablecos perceive the threat of online video too grave (and the revenue opportunity from monetizing bandwidth consumption too great) to just throw up their hands and walk away.

Read the full article here: Time Warner Cable shelves tiered billing; what just happened?

TWC Further Delays Metered Trials

Time-Warner Cable issued a new statement today:

Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) today announced it would alter plans to test Consumption Based Billing, shelving the trials while the customer education process continues.

The good news is that the metered Internet trials are called off for now.

The bad news is that TWC is casting this as a consumer education problem that they’ll go back and fix, and not the retraction of a fundamentally flawed business plan.

As the statement notes:

Time Warner Cable also announced that it is working to make measurement tools available as quickly as possible. These tools will help customers understand how much bandwidth they consume and aid in the dialog going forward.

I suspect TWC is betting that once the bulk of their users see bandwidth consumption that falls into the 2-6 GB range, they’ll be accepting of 20GB or 40GB caps.

Except, I don’t think they will.

A dashboard meter and an education campaign don’t address the critical flaws of the TWC metered Internet proposal.  The flaws include things such as:

  • The plans don’t account for the falling costs of broadband, which when coupled with increasing demand sets up a gigantic windfall opportunity that harms customers.
  • Customers will now be paying to receive junk they don’t want, such as the ever-present background Internet noise, spam, ads, and–worst of all–remote attacks that can bust through a cap in a few days time.
  • Attempts to monetize high-but-reasonable bandwidth consumption that harm innovation and early adopters. That impacts not just those on the bleeding edge, but all of us.
  • The economic harm to innovative businesses that lose their early adopter pool, and thus their opportunity to bring these innovative products and services to market.
  • Pricing that sets the stage for anti-competitive behavior and content partnership deals that create a non-neutral Internet.

These are not things you fix with an educational campaign. They demand a complete retooling of your product approach.

So, yes, breathe a sigh of relief, but don’t think this is over. The statement issued by TWC today is not a capitulation, but another shot across the bow.

Read the full statement here: Time Warner Cable Charts a New Course on Consumption Based Billing

Austin Chronicle: An 11 on the Stupid Scale

Cartoon of a video game player tripping an Internet bandwidth cap.An article in today’s Austin Chronicle says that the Time-Warner Cable plan to meter Internet usage is an attack on its very best customers, and “on the stupid scale, this is an 11.”

Kevin Brass homes right in on the fact that the TWC metering plan isn’t really about preserving network capacity, but about business models and suppressing competition.

Once Time Warner has its hand on the faucet, the cable company can exert huge power over the flow of the Internet. A quick reconfiguring of the tiers, a heartfelt note, and customers will be squeezed for a few more dollars, simply because they like to watch Saturday Night Live on Hulu instead of TV.

With users counting their gigabytes, Time Warner would then be able to wield more influence over content providers, perhaps negotiating deals with certain sites to allow consumers to download that site’s content without the surcharge – giving favored status to whichever company pays Time Warner. Such proposals have been floated in the past (triggering the “Net neutrality” debate), raising concerns that only big companies will gain access to networks, squashing innovation and smaller competitors.

Read the full article here: To the Cyber-Barricades!

Radio Interview Friday on WNIN

88.3FM WNIN LogoI taped a radio interview Wednesday morning with Justin Williams of Plugged In, a weekly radio show that airs on WNIN radio in Evansville, Indiana.

“Plugged In” is a weekly technology show on 88.3 FM WNIN. We discuss technology news and topics with a focus on how they affect our daily lives.

I asked Justin before the show who was the cable provider in his region. He said there actually were three, with Time-Warner Cable serving a suburban part of the region.

We talked for about ten minutes and covered the general issues: what’s happening, why it’s a problem, and what people can do about it.

The interview is scheduled to run on the show that airs Friday, April 17 starting at 12:30pm. They stream live through the net, and the show will be posted later that day to the “Plugged In” web site.

Protests This Weekend

ProtestersPlans have been announce for simultaneous protests in Rochester, N.Y. and Greensboro, N.C. this Saturday. Those two cities have been selected by Time-Warner Cable for metered bandwidth trials in August.

The Greensboro News & Record reports:

Time Warner Cable customers will protest the company’s new caps on Internet data use outside the company’s Spring Garden Street office Saturday.

The protest, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1813 Spring Garden St., is planned for the same time as a demonstration in the also-affected market of Rochester, N.Y.

The effort is being organized largely on the Internet. Pages for the event were created Tuesday on Facebook and Craigslist, with more than 300 people invited and invitations being forwarded by e-mail, on blogs and social networks.

At this time, I’ve seen no word of Texas protests. Austin and San Antonio are scheduled for similar trials in October. If you hear any news please email me or post a comment.

Read the full article here: Time Warner protest planned for Saturday

Here’s the Craig’s List posting for the New York protest: Join the Time Warner broadband capping protest!

ACTION ALERT: Sign the Free Press Petition

freepressFree Press is a national, non-partisan organization that advocates for media reform. They have started a petition, and sent out a mass mailing requesting support.

You can find the petition at:

The mailing is below, after the jump.

12:02pm update: Here’s what’s so cool about this petition. First, it actually gets turned into a letter that’s sent directly to your DC representatives. So it’s not one of those Internet petitions that just bounces around the ether–your message will be delivered to the appropriate decision makers. Second, you can personalize it as much as you want so it’s truly your message. You can reiterate the points Free Press provides, or you can make it your own message. Please do check it out.

Continue reading ACTION ALERT: Sign the Free Press Petition